Democracy and Civic Engagement Program Director (San Francisco, Sacramento, or Fresno)

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ACLU of Northern CA

Date Posted: April 27th, 2020

Location: San Francisco, Sacramento, or Fresno

The Opportunity

The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU NorCal) is hiring a program director to lead the new Democracy and Civic Engagement (DCE) Program.  The Democracy and Civic Engagement Director will lead a team of motivated and mission-driven staff in one of six broad issue-based programs in the affiliate’s Legal-Policy Department.  This is an exciting opportunity to provide vision, leadership and support to a program that includes voting rights, free speech and association, and open government.

The Democracy and Civic Engagement Director will provide supervision and support to approximately four-six lawyers, policy associates, and legal professional staff who work in the program (some staff work in several program areas).  The DCE Director will be supervised by a Legal-Policy Director and will work with the other five Program Directors on annual programmatic plans and intersectional cases and campaigns.  Program Directors are expected to help advance the ACLU NorCal mission while modeling the values of the organization, including excellence, equity and inclusion, expansion mindset, and emotional intelligence.  The DCE Director position can be based in ACLU NorCal’s San Francisco, Sacramento or Fresno offices. 

The Position

The Democracy and Civic Engagement Director will lead the program team - lawyers, policy associates, and legal professional staff – to improve access to voting, accountability of government officials, and safeguard freedom of expression and association. The DCE Director will spend 50-75% of their time on management, strategic planning and leadership and 25-50% of their time on directly engaging in substantive policy advocacy, legal advocacy, or litigation.  The DCE Program has a number of active cases and multiyear integrated advocacy campaigns, as well as a responsibility to respond to attacks on civic engagement as they emerge.  ACLU NorCal also prioritizes work led by impacted communities, and regularly works in coalition with grassroots and community-based organizations, as well as the ACLU NorCal Communications and Organizing Departments, to impact policies and practices at the local, statewide and national levels. The Director will have demonstrated commitment to multimodal advocacy strategies for advancing civil rights and liberties. 

The Approach

ACLU NorCal’s Democracy and Civic Engagement Program protects the rights of people to participate in democratic processes and institutions.  We work to ensure broader, more equitable and inclusive engagement in public discourse and participation in political activities.  We work to ensure that voting rights are protected, government agencies and elected officials are accountable, and that core values like freedom of speech, the press, and civic engagement are defended against suppression. 

ACLU NorCal takes an Integrated Advocacy approach to the work of advancing civil rights and civil liberties in our region and across the state, meaning we deploy multi-pronged strategies that include impact litigation, policy advocacy, legislative advocacy, organizing, and communications.

You are an experienced civil rights advocate and leader who thrives in a busy, mission-driven environment.  You have led impact work on a regional, statewide, or national level, and can effectively support high-achieving individuals and teams to advance their work strategically and effectively. 

You are a leader who trusts and inspires trust in supervisees, and also can share responsibility and authority with others.  You are a strategic thinker with enough experience in voting rights, open government or freedom of expression and association. to be a thought partner to the staff and others with whom ACLU NorCal works.  You have a demonstrated commitment to mentorship and supervision.  You work well under pressure, are professional and personable, and committed to racial and social justice in the work and interpersonal work relationships.

About the Organization

The ACLU of Northern California is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU NorCal) is comprised of two distinct corporations, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California (501c3) and the ACLU of Northern California (501c4). The incumbent is a joint employee of both corporations. For most of the last century, it has been at the heart of many of the most major – and sometimes controversial – struggles for civil liberties and civil rights in our state.  Our mission is to ensure that Constitutional rights don’t just exist on paper but are protected in practice. As we move into a new era and face dangerous policies that threaten our civil rights and civil liberties, we remain dedicated to confronting these issues and defending the progress we have made.  We must use our decades of experience in impact litigation, legislative advocacy, and fearless organizing to fight these un-American policies and protect our most cherished rights and freedoms.

Duties and Responsibilities  

The DCE Program Director will support and model a culture of shared purpose, mentorship and mutual respect in the Program team, in the Legal-Policy Department, across the affiliate and with partners. The DCE Director will plan and facilitate monthly Program meetings, annual retreats, and weekly one-on-one meetings with direct reports.  The DCE Director will provide content for monthly Department meetings and annual program planning.  The DCE Director will participate in Program personnel decisions, including recruiting, hiring, promotions, terminations, and flex working arrangements.  The DCE Director will meet regularly with their supervisor, a Legal-Policy Director, to provide updates and solicit input and feedback and participate in formative and summative self-assessment.  The DCE Director will work regularly with their counterparts in the Southern California and San Diego/Imperial Counties affiliates and ACLU National.


Education / Experience:

  • J.D. and/or graduate degree in a field such as public policy or political science preferred.
  • Significant experience in legal or policy work in the voting rights, First Amendment or open government fields required, with a preference for 10 or more years’ experience.

Required Skills / Competencies:

  • Extremely strong project and time management skills, including a high level of organization, attention to detail, and follow-through, while balancing and prioritizing multiple activities and responsibilities.
  • Excellent relationship-building skills and ability to inspire collaboration, including success leading teams, projects, and people towards action through persuasion.
  • Demonstrated ability to provide support, supervision, and strategic guidance to DCE team members.
  • Demonstrated experience managing complex coalitions with a variety of viewpoints and goals.
  • Demonstrated experience with policy or legal advocacy and/or litigation in the areas of voting rights, First Amendment rights and government accountability
  • Demonstrated commitment to cultural diversity and demonstrated ability to hold and foster difficult and necessary conversations about race, class, sexual orientation and expression, religion, ability, and other identity-based issues.
  • Demonstrated experience engaging in creative problem solving and taking initiative, while utilizing a solutions-oriented approach and exhibiting flexibility and good judgement in a complex organizational ecosystem.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Willingness to travel within Northern and Central California, and occasionally to Southern California and other parts of the country for speaking events, meetings, and conferences (if and when travel limitations are lifted).
  • People with direct personal or professional experience with impacted communities are encouraged to apply for this position.



Competitive salary is commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits include four weeks paid vacation in addition to 14 office holidays; medical, vision and dental insurance for staff members, their dependents and spouse or domestic partner; life and long-term disability insurance; and, 401(k) plan with employer match. Starting annual salary range is $141,386.25 -$157,931.45. Placement within this range will be dependent on years of experience and other qualifications.

To Apply

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.  Applications must include (1) a cover letter explaining why you are interested in this position and the ways in which you satisfy the qualifications specified above, (2) resume, (3) a written sample of your work – campaign plan, legal brief, etc. If your candidacy advances to the final round, you will be asked to provide a list of four references, including one a direct supervisor and one a direct supervisee (please indicate your relationship to each reference). Applicants concurrently applying to any other position with the ACLU should state what other position they are applying for in the cover letter.

Please submit your application in PDF form here:

The ACLU-NC is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need assistance applying online, please e-mail  If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process

The ACLU of Northern California advances equity and inclusion in the workplace by providing equal employment opportunity to support a work environment free from discrimination on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age (over 40), sexual orientation, military and veteran status, arrest or conviction record, and any other basis prohibited by law. The organization also provides reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. This equal employment opportunity policy applies to all aspects of employment, including recruitment, selection, advancement, training, problem resolution, and separation from employment. Through this policy, the ACLU-NC strives to establish and maintain an equitable and accessible work environment that is supportive and free from discrimination.



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